Amazon’s Video Event Tomorrow

Just thinking out loud…

What if Amazon’s video event tomorrow goes in an unexpected direction?

1. Lots of rumors of both a set-top box (a la AppleTV) and an HDMI dongle (a la Chromecast).
2. Game controller rumors.
3. Rumors – immediately denied – of a free TV streaming service.
4. A $20 annual price hike on Amazon Prime, which includes a steaming video library.
5. A proven ability and willingness to sell hardware at or slightly below cost to build share and profit later on sell-through of other Amazon products (a la Kindle).

Amazon is launching a video device – that seems pretty certain. And they are launching into a crowded field and need to stand out. So what if you combine different parts of the facts and rumors listed above?

Here’s my prediction of what could be a pretty radical announcement from Amazon tomorrow…

“Starting to ship out tomorrow, Amazon will ship a free Kindle TV HDMI device to every Amazon Prime member. Additional devices will be available for $30 each. Each dongle will ship with access to the full Amazon Prime video library, as well as the ability to rent and purchase other videos from our extensive library of movies and TV.

“Of course, users will also be able to access music and video from their Amazon cloud accounts. And each Kindle TV will come with other apps built in for access to Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, and Spotify with universal search across all content sources. More apps will roll out from other partners in the coming months.

“And for those who are interested in gaming, we have a solution as well – Kindle TV Plus. Kindle TV Plus is a small set-top box that ships with two game controllers, and a library of games from free to paid offerings including many of the top hits available on iOS and Android. Kindle TV Plus includes all the features of Kindle TV, and is available tomorrow starting at $99 each – or $79 each for Prime members.”

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Rampagedev has posted step-by-step instructions on how to install install OS X 10.9 Mavericks on a Hackintosh with the Clover boot loader (as well as with MyHack).

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13 Sources For Free Public Domain and CC0-Licensed Images looks like it points to some great image libraries.

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ScreenSleeves

ScreenSleeves uses album art from the tracks you are playing from iTunes or Spotify to provide your screensaver. Mac only.

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Integrity for Mac OS X

Easily find your website’s broken links with Integrity for Mac OS X. This app will check every link in your website to make sure they still work!

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Network Rockstar has some tips, and scripts, that should help speed up CrashPlan Backups by changing a configuration parameter. Seems to work fairly well…

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DreamHost PHP.INI installer

This DreamHost PHP.INI installer makes it very easy to set custom memory and filesize upload limits on a DreamHost shared hosting configuration. Very useful for WordPress installs.

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The Hackintosh Way – Part 3

I’ve slowly added back in some of the additional hardware I got for this machine, ensuring that everything works smoothly across the way. I also set up the machine to use my machine’s iTunes library in order to test fullscreen video playback there, where I was getting a black screen but could hear audio. Here’s what I did:

  • Hooked up power and SATA to my two optical drives (DVD writer, BluRay player with DVD writer combo); installed Bluetooth 4.0 dongle. Restarted. Paired Magic Trackpad to the computer successfully, confirmed optical drives are visible to the system.
  • Ran Software Update to get the latest version of iTunes and a couple other things (I checked online at Tonymacx86 to ensure all available updates were safe to install – they were).
  • Launched iTunes to test video playback there — video was great, but I had no sound at all!!! Then I remembered that I had actually assign sound output to a device (internal speaker) to get it working. Whew!
  • Instaled FireWire card to get both two FW800 and one FW400 ports on the machine. (Motherboard has a header for FW400 only, but I couldn’t find the right port bracket only to use with the headers.) System sees both the busses just fine from the card. Tested system sleep/wake, works great even when clicking the Magic Trackpad to wake.
  • Connected a USB3 hard drive, mounts fine and shows as available on a USB 3.0 SuperSpeed bus.
  • Set up all my System Preferences so that once I clone the working system for an archive point prior to installing all my applications, everything will be set up the way I want it. Also created other user accounts I need.
  • Cloned the system to a 32GB USB key to capture my setpoint backup.
  • Downloaded purchased apps from the Mac App Store. Had an initial problem where the App Store wouldn’t let me install — the buttons were greyed out. Turns out I still had a backup drive from previous Hackintosh installation attempts connected up and the App Store figured they were all installed already as a result. Quit the App Store, ejected the drive, and relaunched the App Store to make it all work.

After I got some of this initial setup work out of the way, I downloaded and installed Geekbench to get a reading on just how fast this system is without any overclocking. I scored a 14082 – compared to the 2007-era Mac mini I was running, which scores a ~3000. That’s nearly a five-fold improvement — not too shabby!

xMac Geekbench Score: 14,082

My new Hackintosh build, called “xMac”, scored over 14,000 on Geekbench!

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The Hackintosh Way – Part 2

My final parts for xMac arrived today, so it’s time to get serious on getting the machine up and running in a stable configuration. I’ve got the EVGA 650 Ti graphics card installed, and disconnected pretty much any extra hardware except for:

  1. DVI video to my single monitor (from the EVGA card’s DVI-D output)
  2. SSD for eventual system boot drive
  3. One HHD for the eventual main data storage drive
  4. USB for keyboard and mouse
  5. Ethernet
  6. Sound

The rest of this post will document every step I take from here on in case it helps anyone else building this type of configuration. Again, I’m following the installation guide for Mac OS X 10.8 from Tonymacx86.

  • Powered the system up and start repeatedly pressing the forward delete key (DEL) to enter the UEFI configuration screen (can also use F12 and then go to “Setup” from the resulting menu)
  • Follow UEFI setup guide for the Z77X-UP5 TH motherboard. For future reference, I’m runing version F11 of the UEFI dated 09/03/2012, which is what shipped on the board. My BIOS ID is 8A11AG06.
    • Press F7 to load “optimized defaults” for the board
    • In the System section, changed the time to match my local time.
    • Go to Peripherals section, ensure xHCI mode is set to Auto (Smart Auto doesn’t work in OS X). You also want to make sure that xHCI and EHCI Hand-off is enabled (xHCI was already Enabled, but EHCI was not).
    • Also in Peripherals, set up graphics section correctly for the configuration. With my EVGA card installed, I set this to Init Display First to PEG for PCI Express Graphics.
    • In the Power Management section, ensure High Precision Event Timer is Enabled. Set Wake on LAN to Disabled for now to avoid a “looping reboot” issue where the machine will start right back up after shutdown. NOTE – In my case, this did not appear to be necessary so I was able to go back to Enabled.
    • In BIOS Features, set the boot order properly.
      • QUESTION – The Tonymacx86 guide for this board says to avoid using boot drives with UEFI prefixes under Mac OS X, but that’s the only option I’m getting (I don’t have the legacy “P0:” prefixed option). Is this a problem? Or do I change it for the legacy “P0:” version in Hard Drive BBS priorities as noted here?
      • NOTE – I’ll have to go back and change this once the system is set up and I connect optical drives, etc.
    • Hit F10 to save the BIOS and exit, rebooting the system.
  • System boots correctly into Chimera. Select my USB key to run the Mac OS X installer. I’m installing straight to Mountain Lion 10.8.4.
  • Got gray Apple screen with the spinning “wait” cursor, then screen cleared and went straight to the Install OS X screen at the right video resolution for my monitor. NOTE – This is already a better result than I got using internal video!!! :)
  • Go to the Utilities menu and use Disk Utility to reformat my SSD boot drive by creating a new whole-disk partition. GUID Partition Method in Options, Mac OS Extended (Journaled) format.
  • Close Utilities and run the OS installer. Wait patiently…
  • Let system reboot from complete installation, booting to USB stick again. From Chimera screen, select the new Mountain Lion installation.
  • Got the gray Apple with spinning “wait” cursor again for a little bit, then smoothly booted into Mac OS X setup. Again – PERFECT result! In prior attempts, the boot process hung up there and I started having to take out graphics drivers to get things working. Now, I’m automatically at the right graphics resolution and everything!!!
  • Set up Mac OS X according to personal preference.
  • Once at Finder desktop, launch Safari and navigate to Tonymacx86 Downloads to grab MultiBeast for Mountain Lion (5.3.1 at this writing). Using a Gigabyte motherboard, so I don’t need to download a DSDT file.
  • Run MultiBeast and configure as shown here. NOTHING else selected at this time.
  • After installation completes, eject the USB drive and restart the system.
  • GOT STUCK AT GRAY SCREEN in bootup process. Googled “hackintosh gray screen boot” and got reminded that I need to have selected one additional option in MultiBeast since I’m using a graphics card and not internal graphics. See this thread for detail. Hit the reset button to reboot, then typed “GraphicsEnabler = No” from Chimera boot screen to successfully boot up to my login prompt.
  • Ran MultiBeast again and selected Customization > Boot Options > GraphicsEnabler=No to apply it to the system permanently. Rebooted – everything boots smoothly. Confirmed that the graphics flickering I was encountering before with my messed-up install using internal HD4000 graphics are a thing of the past by testing the Safari Top Sites tab, looking at the Notifications area (where I had some scrollbar artifacts), and playing a YouTube video fullscreen to ensure there were no major issues.

With that, I’m going to shut down for tonight and regroup tomorrow, bringing back in some of my other hardware and ensuring it works smoothly. I’m VERY happy with today’s results!

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The Hackintosh Way – Part 1

I’m finally taking the leap and building a Hackintosh – the old Mac mini I’ve been running at home is just way too slow anymore to keep up with our iTunes and iPhoto libraries, not to mention the web and video work I’ve been playing around with for church lately. Most of the parts arrived a couple days ago and I’ve been playing around and getting familiar with putting everything together — this isn’t just my first Hackintosh, it’s the first time I’ve ever done a home-built computer!

Of course, part of the fun (?!??!) is the troubleshooting that’s necessary to get Mac OS X up and running the right way on a Hack, so I’m getting more and more familiar with how to do all of that. Since I’ve decided to chalk the last day or so of work up to the “experimentation” phase on how to make things work, I’m going to start over and document everything pretty exhaustively both for future personal reference and in the hopes it can help someone else.

So, here is the system I’m going to call “xMac” in honor of the midpoint Mac many enthusiants hope Apple might build between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro (don’t hold your breath).Components were selected primarily based on their presence in Tonymacx86′s Buyer’s Guides (June 2013). As recommended, I’m sticking with Ivy Bridge processors because Haswell procs are still too new to be stable and widely supported in the Hackintosh community. That will change as Apple moves more of their machines to the new chips. All links below point to Amazon unless otherwise noted (and no, they are not affiliate links).

So I’m going to get back into re-installing everything from scratch tomorrow…I’ve got a system up, running, and “mostly” stable right now based on HD4000 internal graphics, but my GeForce 650 Ti card arrives tomorrow and that will be the permanent solution – especially since I’ve borked up my HD4000 graphics due to some errors along the way… <sigh>

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